Rediscovering a Treasure Trove

The Bar Convent’s historic archives have been given a new lease of life with the arrival of Dr Hannah Thomas, our recently appointed Special Collections Manager. Dr Thomas, who joins us from Durham University, has the task of overseeing not just the impressive archives but the convent’s research library too.

She’s been busy cataloguing the vast array of books, diaries and documents that line the shelves and sit in drawers and cupboards. Some of these even pre-date the founding of the convent in 1686.


She’s been brought in by the Community, who’ve previously taken on the archivist role themselves. Dr Thomas said, “It’s a fascinating collection, from a book of spiritual exercises that was possible hand written by Mary Ward to convent diaries that cover both world wars. One was even blown out of the building during the 1942 air raid and has a huge chunk missing! And then we have the original deeds of the house that were signed by “Mrs Long”, alias Mother Superior Frances Bedingfield.


One of the first things I’m doing is digitising our catalogues to make sure that the collection is accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. We’ll also be developing relationships with universities to encourage more research and generally open up the archives up to a wider audience.”

The work currently underway is just the tip of the iceberg. The archives are very much part of the Living Heritage Centre, which also includes the Exhibition that opened two years ago. Now it’s hoped the two can be brought closer together.

Dr Thomas said, “Lots of exciting things are already in the pipeline, including a number of projects with local universities and an event at the York Literature Festival in March 2018. We will also be adding a ‘document of the month’ display case to the Exhibition, to showcase some of the treasures in the collections.”

There’s also already been public interest in her appointment, with BBC Radio York featuring the work of the archives on their mid-morning programme. And for Hannah, it’s close to a dream job.


“I’m delighted to be taking up this role, and very excited at the huge amount of fantastic material I will be working with. The Bar Convent is such a lovely place to work, and I feel honoured to be looking after the archives and library. It’s like being given the keys to a sweet shop!”


One thought on “Rediscovering a Treasure Trove

  1. So exciting! I hope you find many treasures and are able to share them, even, possibly on line! Happy hunting and cataloguing, and may the excitement of surprises fuel your passion for your work and for Mary Ward and her sisters. Enjoy every minute.


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